Thursday, 28 May 2009

hats, hats, hats!

It was second time lucky with my trip to Stephen Jones' Hats:an Anthology at Victoria and Albert museum today - the exhibition was closed when I got there earlier in the month. I am very pleased that I tried again and visited this afternoon as it was absolutely fantastic in every way. The V&A is my favourite museum for many reasons, the standard of their exhibits obviously being the most important one, and this exhibition rates amongst the best I have seen.
Stephen Jones refers to hats as the 'ultimate accessory' and until I had seen his curation of this exhibition, I admit I did not agree, being much more of a shoe gal myself! However, he has almost swayed me to his way of thinking; a hat can be more theatrical and beautiful than I ever thought.
The layout assists the air of originality, drama and beauty. Jones' own work is stunning, and he has chosen fabulous pieces by other designers past and present to compliment these, assembled not in a stuffy chronological fashion, but according to style and theme, with the four main themes being Inspiration, Creation, The Client and The Salon.

The Inspiration theme looks at diverse creative simulae and my highlight was discovering that Jones based the anthology on the V&A's first fashion exhibition. This was curated by Cecile Beaton, whose designs for My Fair Lady were a great inspiration to Jones. Bonnets Audrey Hepburn wore in the film, Julie Andrews wore in the play and some theatrical and unforgettable hats from the film's Ascot scene are displayed alongside a Stephen Jones hat that is heavily influenced by these. I love My Fair Lady and these simple pieces were a reminder of the dramatic effect these scenes first had for me and on my own burgeoning love of fashion (as well as reminding me how much I love Hepburn and Andrews of course!)

The Creation section is arranged in sections according to technique. Among my favourite headpieces here were a beautifully coloured feather hat from the 1800s, a twenties felt cloche and some knitted pieces.

Monitors dotted between the glass cases show charming short films, mainly from the thirties and forties, consisting of smiling ladies wearing an assortment of charming hats that in most cases look more avant garde than many contemporary designs.
Jones' iconic Union Jack hat is filmed being meticulously handmade by the head milliner of his studio and is mesmerising. I loved watching a beautiful, unique piece being made by hand, and felt a kind of legitimising link to my pledge to promote handmade.
The only downside to Hats is that it's just too popular, meaning that we could hardly move in front of the cabinets and some pieces were hard to catch a glimpse of.

The exhibition is closing this weekend, if you are in town and haven't yet seen it, I urge you to get your hat on and try to get along.

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